Catacombs of Paris – Touring the Underground Labyrinth of Death

We have always wanted to go to the Catacombs of Paris, France. It took us a few tries, but we finally made it happen!

Paris Catacombs

A tour of the Catacombs of Paris

The last time we were in Paris, we didn't make it to the underground labyrinth of death. We've been fascinated with catacombs for years and though when we visited Lima, Peru we'd get the chance to see them there. Unfortunately I developed a bad case of food poisoning from eating a burger at Tony Roma's. I spent the last two days in Lima praying to the porcelain God. It took us three tries in Paris and on in Lima, but on our fourth and most recent visit to Europe, we finally got to explore the Paris Catacombs!

paris catacombs

Entrance to the Catacombs of Paris

“If a barrel of bones disturbs you, the catacombs might be traumatic.”

Catacombs of Paris Tour

Catacombs of Paris

Entering the Catacombs of Paris

We landed on French soil and put the catacombs at the top of our agenda. On day one felt groggy from jet lag but we refused to let it beat us. After refuelling with a fresh brewed coffee and croissants we hopped on the metro to catch the train Montparnasse. The Catacombs are located in Montparnasse at the Denfert Rochereau Metro station.

Read: Three Days in Paris for other attractions and things to do 

Denfert Rochereau is the metro stop for the Catacombs in Montparnasse

How to get to the Catacombs from the Metro

It's quite easy to get to the catacombs from the metro stop. All you have to do is walk across the street from the metro stop and the catacombs are right there. Seriously. They are right there.  I say seriously, because Dave and I ended up walking in the wrong direction and went a half hour out of our way before realizing our mistake.

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The hallways are dark and narrow!

The hallways are surprisingly well lit!

There was a short line when we arrived and we only waited a few minutes to get in.  The great thing about the catacombs of Paris is that they only let 200 people into the caves at a time. They space you out in small groups so you aren't stuck with a crowd. You end up walking down the dark and scary spiral staircase all alone. It feels as if you might be the only person going in. Will you be able to get out?

The Catacombs are not for the faint of heart

I was trying not to think about the warnings posted outside the entrance.  “People suffering from cardiac or respiratory weakness or a nervous disposition should not go into the catacombs” “Young people may be traumatized by the experience.” The catacombs of Paris sounded like it was going to be a freaky experience. I have a slight case of claustrophobia so my heart started racing a bit.

Literally a barrel of bones!

Once we reached the end of the spiral stair case and walked into the tunnels, I felt relief. They weren't t too small or dark.  My visions of claustrophobia quickly disappeared. In fact, I found the Catacombs to be quite pleasant.

Enjoy more travel photography: Paris at Night, A photostory

The catacombs are a little on the macabre side, but they are not traumatic.  The tunnels are wide and high and the light is bright. Sure it felt eerie, but I wasn't going into cardiac arrest.

Once you crawled through the original tunnels of the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, the Catacombs of Paris are nothing.

Paris Catacombs

The Catacombs of Paris have surprisingly high ceilings.

If a barrel of bones disturbs you, the catacombs might be traumatic. But they felt more like displays of art than dead bodies. We were impressed with the displays of barrel of bones, and the walls of bones. They were organized beautifully and meticulously arranged into works of art.

Enjoy a video tour of the Catacombs of Paris 

History of the Paris Catacombs

The Paris Catacombs were developed in the late 1700's. Paris cemeteries were over run with human remains causing serious health issues. Water in the city was contaminated and disease was running rampant.  Something had to be done to save peoples lives. The closed several cemeteries within the city and moved the human remains to old quarries.

The Bones and skulls were stacked upon eachother!

The Bones and skulls were stacked upon eachother!

The quarries were blessed by priests and the bones put inside. They were stacked upon each other in a very neat and orderly fashion that tourists can see today. Their aren't any names to go with the bones but there are plaques stating which cemetery the bones are from and what year they arrived.

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Identifying the cemetary and the year!

Identifying the cemetary and the year!

The Catacombs of Paris house over 6 Million bones. They added bones for almost a century after the first cemeteries were moved.  The last set of bones were added in 1871. The catacombs were used by the French Resistance in World War II to hide from German soldiers but people were touring the catacombs as early as 1867. They had a major overhaul in 2008 making it the easy walk you see today.

Should you Visit the Catacombs of Paris?

If you like a little thrill in your travels and want to feel a little spooked, the catacombs of Paris make for an excellent destination.  Skulls peak out over stacks of femurs and tibia bones and crosses are placed in the centre of walls of bones to give it a solemn look.

Bones and skulls everywhere!

Bones and skulls everywhere!

Water drips overhead and the air has a slight chill.  As you walk through the dimly lit hallways you can hear muffled voices of other tourists walking behind you. Or is it the voices of the past calling out somewhere from the deep depths of the tunnels? Are the catacombs haunted? Who knows, but if there is one place in Paris that should have a haunting, this would be it. 

Read Next: How to Visit Paris on a Budget

Catacombs of Paris: Practical Information and Cost

  • Cost – 8 Euro
  • Duration – They say 45 minutes to 2 Hours, We were about an Hour and a Half.
  • Open – 10 am to 5 Pm
  • Closed – Mondays
  • For a very special experience book a 2-hour full access guided tour for exclusive access and information. 

How to Get to the Catacombs by Public Transport

  • Metro Stop – Denfert Rochereau
  • Buss # 38 and #68
  • Be prepared to walk a couple of Kilometres once you are in the Catacombs
  • No toilets in the tunnel system
  • There are emergency phones inside the catacombs if there is a problem

Check out our France Travel Guide for more information and travel tips

For more tips on travel to Paris check out our other blog posts

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